Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I Want to Write Like... (A Guest Post by Cas Webb)

As you may have noticed, there was no blog entry last week. While I'm gearing up for my trip to Odyssey Writing Workshop (and while I'm there toiling away), my schedule may be a little irregular. Posts will always go up on Wednesdays, but I may miss a week here or there.

And starting today, I've decided to open up the blog to guest posts so I can devote all of my energy to Odyssey. Writer and artist Cas Webb is kicking things off with today's entry. A big thanks to Cas for stopping by. Be sure and visit her site if you enjoy her post.

~ J.W.

I want to write like . . .

by Cas Webb

Last week I happened across a library flyer that announced Kate Forsyth was coming to town. After sitting up till midnight devouring her latest work I am still only a small chunk into ‘The Wild Girl’ and I can’t stop saying wow. I write fantasy, very often set in a medieval world where there needs to be some description of places readers have never been to, kings and queens and distant royal family. As I read passages from Kate’s work I am loving the way she is doing all of these things.

So who do you want to write like?

Now let’s get technical. I want to break down a passage of Kate’s work. Here she introduces a large family of 6 and gives them all personalities in a short paragraph. As a writer I can look up to her work, learn from it and grow. In my book via blog my protagonist befriends a family of 7 children.

From page 16-17 of ‘The Wild Girl’

In the glow of the lamp, she saw two young men, both thin and dark and shabbily dressed. The elder of the two had a straight face, with straight hair hanging past his ears. The younger was the more handsome with pale skin, hollow cheeks and wavy dark curls…
 … Ferdinand said. He was the fourth of the five Grimm sons, seventeen years old, with the families dark hair and thin, sensitive face.
‘I guess he’s changed his mind,’ Jakob replied drily.
 ‘Do they march against Austria?’ eighteen-year-old Karl demanded.
‘I suppose it was to be expected,’ nineteen-year-old Whilhelm said. 
…Ludwig asked. At fifteen, he was the youngest Grimm brother and three years older than Lotte.

As you can see I have edited out a bit. But essentially we’re given this over two half pages.

In contrast I’ve grabbed an extract from my current book via blog, NEW. Here’s how my readers are introduced to the Meadowsblade family.

“Kemla, these are my children. Laura and Remy yu’ve already met,” Sara explains pointing to the two youths that were in the yard grooming horses earlier. 
With a smile the two nod and take seats opposite Sara and I.
My gaze remains locked on the two men.
“The little one’s Alex.”  The baby giggles at the mention of his name and the twins also take seats on the opposite side of the table. “The twins names are Zara and Zoe.” 
“Don’t worry if y’ can’t tell them apart, they never leave each others side anyway,” Laura laughs. 
The twins give her angry stares, but offer warm smiles in my direction. 
“And I apologise for my over defensive boys,” Sara starts. 
“Hello, my name’s Wilf,” the younger boy smiles, letting his arm fall away from his sword. I examine his smile carefully - it doesn’t seem to harbor any malice or false pretences. Wilf walks around the table and extends his hand. 
...The last person, the eldest with striking dark eyes and he’s almost a head taller than I am. I’d have to use the table to my advantage. The room’s quite crowded now, would he risk drawing his sword? I’m at an advantage with my dagger. My racing heart doesn’t agree with me. 
He walks around the table. Kicking my pulse into a quicker rhythm. I’d step back, but backwards is a cowards direction, so I force my feet to stay put. 
“Orin,” he extends his hand.

The main difference is that Kate’s extract is in third person from the perspective of Dortchen. The extract from my work is in tight first person. And I realized only as I was thinking about writing this piece that the main flaw of a tight first person perspective is that EVERYTHING my reader discovers essentially must be told to my main character in some way if it is not existing knowledge for my main character. So I’ve discovered that after my first few chapters when my reader knows everything about my characters current situation and something dramatic has happened to change that situation I need to create a lot of opportunities for dialogue for my story to move forwards.

This insight only came to me as I was thinking critically about my work and consciously trying to learn from the achievements of others. What can you learn from your favorite writer? What can you learn from the excerpts above?

I guess another way we can view this is by saying, ‘I want my work to read like . . .’

When someone new reads our work what level of imagery or poetry or elegance do we want them to be elevated to?

I’d like to leave you with a writing prompt. Grab a character, your own or one you love, and introduce them to a family of six in less than a page.


Cas Webb
of and


  1. Are you sticking to first person then?
    I'd like my books to read like Timothy Zahn's Star Wars series - fast and simple - but I've never compared to see how closely I achieved that.

    1. Hi Alex
      Even the best practice, however you can fit that in to your day. Let me know how your comparison to Timothy Zahn's work goes ;)

  2. That's a good writing exercise. I run into this all the time when I write.

    I always want my writing to be seamless and flow like Kathyrn Lasky's. I don't write children's books like her, but I think she's amazing.

    1. Hi Krystal
      What a great role model. My example from Kate Forsyth's work was comparing adult historical fiction to my own ya fantasy - so you can definitely learn from other genres.
      good luck

  3. That's a great example of show and not tell. Can't wait for your release!

    1. Thanks for enjoying the read. I love a positive comment

  4. Ooh, I want to go to Odyssey!
    Cas, that's a cool writing prompt.

    1. I love a good writing prompt, thanks for reading :)


Thanks for reading!